The Manhattan Transfer is a jazz vocal group founded in 1969 that has explored a capella, vocalese, swing, standards, Brazilian jazz, rhythm and blues, and pop music….as there has been two editions of the Manhattan Transfer, with Tim Hauser being the only person to be part of both. The first group consisted of Hauser, Erin Dickins, Marty Nelson, Pat Rosalia, and Gene Pistilli….while the second version of the group, formed in 1972 and consisted of Hauser, Alan Paul, Janis Siegel, and Laurel Massé….as this is the version seen in the video herewith….for this concert was recorded just prior to Messe’s accident…..so, long-time pianist with the group, Yaron Gershovsky, accompanied them on tour and served as music director. The group’s next album, Extensions (Atlantic, 1979), produced the hit “Twilight Zone”….which was a tribute to the TV series…..and featured a cover version of “Birdland”, an instrumental by the jazz fusion group Weather Repo….with lyrics by Jon Hendricks of Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. Birdland is one of the most popular jazz recordings of 1980….as it won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Fusion Performance, ….while Janis Siegel won the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Arrangement.In 1981….when the Manhattan Transfer made music history by becoming the first group to win Grammy awards for both popular and jazz categories in the same year.
“The Boy from New York City” was a cover of the 1965 success by The Ad Libs….as it reached the Top 10 on the Billboard 200….while winning them the award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with “Vocal”….and “Until I Met You (Corner Pocket)” earned them a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group. Both of these songs appeared on the group’s fifth album, Mecca for Moderns (Atlantic, 1981). In 1982, the group won another Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group, for its rendition of “Route 66”….as the song was featured on the soundtrack to the Burt Reynolds film Sharky’s Machine.
In September 1983, the group released the album Bodies and Souls….with an urban-contemporary style which resulted in two R&B chart singles….the first was the # 2 rated hit “Spice of Life”….which was co-written by former Heatwave member Rod Temperton….who had penned several hits for Michael Jackson. The single reached # 40 on the US pop chart and # 19 in the UK….while the other, a single ballad titled “Mystery”….reached # 80 on R & B chart and # 102 on the US Pop chart…..which was later covered by Anita Baker on her 1986 album Rapture.
In 1985, the group released two albums….with the 1st being Bop Doo-Wopp…..which included both live and studio recordings….while the 2nd was Vocalese…..which became a historic album….as it received twelve Grammy nominations….of which, at the time, made it 2nd only to Michael Jackson’s Thriller as the most nominated single album ever. The group won in two categories as Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group and Best Arrangement for Voices.
For their next album, Brasil (1987), the group headed south to work with Brazilian songwriters and musicians Ivan Lins, Djavan, Milton Nascimento and Gilberto Gil…..as Brasil won a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
The group did not release any studio albums again until 1991….when they signed with the Sony Music label….and released The Offbeat of Avenues….which featured original material written or co-written by members of the quartet….as their efforts brought them their 10th Grammy award for the song “Sassy”. This was followed by the release of their first holiday album entitled The Christmas Album in 1992…. then after switching back to Atlantic Records as their distributor….they released Tonin’….which was a collection of R&B and popular successes from the 1960’s….then came The Manhattan Transfer Meets Tubby the Tuba, a children’s album….which was followed by their 1997 album Swing….when they covered 1930’s-era swing music. Their final album for Atlantic was The Spirit of St. Louis in 2000…..a collection of songs dedicated to the music of Louis Armstrong. The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998.